Friday, July 31, 2015



Benor arrives in Port Naain intent on the simple task of producing a handbook for merchants. Then there is a murder, and a vengeful family who will stop at nothing to silence those who found the body. Suddenly Benor’s life is no longer simple.

This is the first of a series of ‘detective’ short stories (about 20,000 words) featuring the popular fantasy character Benor.


Jim, how did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”
I’ve been a farmer and freelance journalist for an awful long time now, but it was 2011 when I first started writing fiction. (Some of the more sarcastic might comment that my analysis of the Common Agricultural policy smacked of fantasy fiction so in my defense I will merely comment that life imitates art.)

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
It’s the journey, the sense of exploration. I sort of have an idea about where I’m going but the scenery on the route is fascinating.

What books do you currently have published?
Swords for a Dead Lady,

 Dead Man Riding East, The Flames of the City, Learning a Hard Trade. These four are available in paperback from 1st August, having been out as e-books for a while.
The Cartographer’s Apprentice
And for SF with a different publisher:
Justice 4.1
War 2.2

And now Flotsam or Jetsam.

Can you share some of your marketing strategies with us?
I listened to a lot of people and nothing I’m going to say is new or unique to me.

The first is to have a lot of books out there for people to buy. People seem to like an author who has a number of books. So now I’ve got six or seven.

The second is something new. Rather than full books, I decided I’d try an experiment. I’ve written six, 20,000 word short stories. They’re fantasy detective stories. Together they’re known as The Port Naain Intelligencer. Each has its own title, so the first is "Flotsam or Jetsam." All six have been written, edited and are ready. The cunning plan is that they’ll come out, regular as clockwork, so people can rely on them.

Hopefully this will ‘build momentum.’ I’ll drop round later and tell you if it’s worked.

The third thing is to reach out beyond your obvious audience and work with other competent professionals. An example of this is a slim pamphlet called ‘Lambent Dreams’ I have produced with my editor, Mike Rose-Steel. He borrowed a character of mine and wrote poems for him. I had my character write the social and historical background to the poems and then Mike invented another, rival, poet to write the literary criticism.

It is already published by Spindlebox Press as a slim, 28-page hand-sewn 
pamphlet. This is traditional within the poetry genre. But as soon as I get time, I'm sticking it on Amazon where it'll be free for a week or so, around and about 1st August. 
My hope is that by leaving it free and encouraging you to download it, I might just get number one Amazon slot for the same book in fantasy, poetry, and literary criticism. It may not a particularly worthy ideal, but you must admit it just has to be tried!

The fourth is simple: word of mouth. One reason we’ve gone for paperback as well is that you can stand there and show people something, sell them it in the street.

You have a day job . . . how do you find time to write?
Because my two day jobs are farming and freelance journalism, I’m lucky. There are times with farming I have time to think, to plan out a book. Freelance journalism has taught me to write quickly, reliably and not to be precious about what I’ve written, but to accept editor’s comments with good grace.

How often do you tweet?
I confess that about the only time I tweet is when automatic systems from Facebook or Wordpress tweet for me. I don’t actually look at my Twitter feed every month.

How do you feel about Facebook?
It’s okay. You can waste a lot of time there, but it has got me back in touch with people I somehow lost touch with. If you regard it as a way to keep in touch with people and to mention what you’ve just written, it’s fine. If you just want to use it to sell books it’s probably a waste of time.

For what would you like to be remembered?
If they say, “Jim? Yeah, he was a nice guy, I liked him,” then I’ll be happy.

YouTube is . . .
Fun at times
3D movies are . . . 
I’ve never been to one. On the rare occasions I go to the cinema, I go with my daughter, and as 3D makes her seasick, we don’t do them. So I’d say over-rated.

If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
Depends how often you’re going to empty it. I’m filling it less quickly than I used to.

What's your relationship with your TV remote?
Lost it ten years ago.

Do you spend more on clothes or food?
I’m male. I don’t buy clothes every year.

What's your favorite treat for movie night?
Just going to the cinema with my daughter. We don’t get to do it more than once a year.

What is the most daring thing you've done?
I asked this lass to marry me. Fortunately, she said yes.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
It’s a comment made by Plato. “This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.”

What would your main character say about you?
I doubt he’d remember me if you asked him.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
I had to do the talk for a Remembrance Sunday service. Writing it and then giving it left me utterly drained.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
Richard Hannay. (From Thirty-nine steps and several other books.)

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing?
Somebody once described an article I did as "ignorant and ill-informed."

How did you deal with it?
I just went in and banked the cheque. The magazine editor was pleased I’d stirred up discussion.

Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone in the world?
I’m not a dinner party person, but if we’re allowed anybody, living or dead, I’ve always said I’d love to spend a lazy afternoon in a taverna on a Greek Island with Herodotus.

What's your relationship with your cell phone?
Great. It lives switched off in a drawer because we don’t get signal round here.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?


What is your favorite movie?
Disney, the animated version of Peter Pan.

Do you have a favorite book?
Bad to be definitive, I like the work of Jack Vance, but Lord of the Rings is probably the individual book that I’d take to the desert island.

How about a favorite book that was turned into a movie? Did the movie stink?
Actually, I thought they did the films pretty well.
How long is your to-do list?
I long ago gave up keeping one.

What are you working on now?
I’m editing a short, 7,000-word short story for the Port Naain Intelligencer series. This one will be given away as a freebie at some point.

Lightning round:
Cake or frosting? Cake
Laptop or desktop? Desktop
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? I had to Google both of them to find out who they were.
Emailing or texting? Email, I don’t text.
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors.
Tea: sweet or unsweet? Coffee.
Doesn't count! Plane, train, or automobile? Walking.


Swords for a Dead Lady
Dead Man Riding East 

The Flames of the City
Learning a Hard Trade
Four are available in paperback from 1st August:
The Cartographer’s Apprentice
Justice 4.1
War 2.2

Get a free download of Lambert Dreams here.


Jim Webster is probably fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing SF and fantasy novels.

He lives in South Cumbria.

Connect with Jim:
Website  |  
Facebook  |  
Twitter  |  Goodreads

Wednesday, July 29, 2015



P.J. Benson knows Sheriff’s Detective Wade Kingsley wouldn’t blow up his own boat to kill his ex-wife and her new husband, Michael Brewster. Sure, Wade wasn’t happy that his ex was taking their six-year-old son, Jason, to live in California, but Wade and Jason were also onboard the boat when it blew up. Wade would never have endangered his son that way. Nevertheless, the investigating detectives consider Wade their prime suspect, and Wade’s ex in-laws loudly accuse him and threaten to file for custody of Jason. 

Under the circumstances, P.J. is certain this isn’t the right time to tell Wade she’s pregnant, but bouts of morning sickness give her away. Wade is upset by the news. P.J. wonders if it’s because he’s afraid he’ll be put in prison for a double homicide he didn’t commit, or if he’s afraid the new baby will cause P.J. to become schizophrenic, as was the case with her mother. Even P.J. is worried about that. Although Wade doesn’t want her playing detective, P.J. soon discovers that Michael Brewster wasn’t as great a guy as everyone thought. But did anyone hate the man enough to kill him?


I like visiting new places, but I also love writing about areas I know. Eat Crow and Die takes place in three locations that I’m quite familiar with.

Zenith, Michigan may be a fictitious village, but most of the residents of Climax, Michigan and the area around that village (where I lived for 27 years) recognize the businesses as those they pass every time they go through town. The grocery store in Climax went out of business a few years ago, but the one in Zenith is still there. My main character, P.J. Benson, often meets neighbors and friends at the store. And I remember getting my hair cut at the beauty parlor near the town’s only restaurant and bar. If ever a neighbor coming out of the beauty parlor saw me going into that bar with a stranger, I know it would be all over town within an hour. P.J. also knows that’s true.

When P.J. drives Wade to South Haven to view where his boat exploded and sank, it was easy for me to write about the traffic jams they encountered. During the summer, I’m constantly dealing with the out-of-state drivers, beach goers, and waits for the drawbridge.

We had a boat explode not far from our boat slip. That was a totally different situation from what I created in Eat Crow and Die, but the pictures of that boat burning and the news articles about the passengers who were tossed into the water from the blast certainly triggered my imagination. I knew I had to start Eat Crow and Die with Wade’s boat exploding. (Poor Wade.)

I’ve been in the hospitals in Kalamazoo, and in the casinos that have sprung up in southwest Michigan. It was fun to weave both of those locations into P.J.’s quest to discover who blew up Wade Kingsley’s boat, how it was accomplished, and why?

I hope those who enjoy a mystery with a touch of humor will find Eat Crow and Die a pleasure to read.


Maris Soule has been writing for over 30 years. Prior to switching to mysteries, Soule had 25 category romances published and is a two-time RITA finalist. In addition to A Killer Past, Soule has three published mysteries in her P.J. Benson Mystery series (The Crows, As the Crow Flies, and Eat Crow and Die).

Born and raised in California, Soule was working on a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when a redhead with blue eyes talked her into switching from a Masters to a Mrs. He also talked her into moving to Michigan, where over the years they’ve raised two children and a slew of animals. The two now spend their summers near Lake Michigan and their winters in Florida.

Connect with Maris:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 

Monday, July 27, 2015



Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, "Drop Dead." Taylor's situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.
A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood's stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It's hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That's not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha – a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop – he realizes he's too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor's standing between her and some mighty big guns.


The great headlines of other newspapers were always to be despised. Not today.

The three ancient copy editors were on their feet, with Copydesk Chief Milt Corman in the middle. Taylor stopped his walk through the newsroom to find out why. If someone had made a mistake, it must be a colossal one to get those fat asses out of their seats. He looked over Corman’s shoulder. The copy chief held the Daily News. It was that day’s edition, Oct. 30, 1975. The 144-point front-page headline screamed up from the page.


Corman rattled the paper violently. “That’s a work of art. Tells the whole story in five words. He gave the city the finger yesterday.”

Jack Miller, one of the other old farts, moved back to his seat. You could only expect him to stand for so long. He settled into his chair for another day of slashing copy. “What do you expect from our unelected president? Veepee to Nixon. Goddamned pardoned Robert E. Lee two months ago.”

“Didn’t pardon him. Gave him back his citizenship.”

“Same thing. The barbarians are running the country and now they’re at our gates. We’re the biggest, most important city on the planet, and he’s going to leave us hanging to get himself actually elected to the job.”

Corman flipped open the paper to the Ford speech story across pages four and five. “Just listen to this bullshit. ‘I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a Federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default.’ He blathers on about using the uniform bankruptcy laws. On and on and on. How do you police the streets and pick up garbage under the uniform bankruptcy laws? A Federal judge trying to run the whole damn city? Chaos.”

“Ford’s from Grand Rapids.” Miller shook his big round head. “He doesn’t know from anything about this place. He’s talking to all the flatlanders — a nation that hates us.”

“Will you listen to this at the end? ‘If we go on spending more than we have, providing more benefits and more services than we can pay for, then a day of reckoning will come to Washington and the whole country just as it has to New York City. When that day of reckoning comes, who will bail out the United States of America?’ He’ll kill this city to keep his job.” Corman looked from the paper to Taylor. “You’re the crime reporter. Why don’t you go after this? Write the story about the man who murdered New York.”

Taylor laughed. “You can’t kill New York.”

“Rome fell.”

“Rome wasn’t New York. You know this is the same political bullshit. Made up numbers and budget magic and threats from Washington. New York will still be here long after. It’s a great headline, though. You guys should try writing ’em like that.”

He left the horseshoe copy desk before they could protest that wasn’t the style of the New York Messenger-Telegram. He knew all too well the three of them would kill to be headline writers at the Daily News. That paper wasn’t perpetually on the verge of failing like the MT.

Taylor gave New York’s financial crisis about thirty seconds more thought as he wound his way around the maze of the newsroom. To him, the crisis was background noise. The city had become a dark place since the Sixties decided to end early, round about 1968. Crime lurked in the darkness, and he covered crime. He was too busy with New York’s growth industry to pay attention to the mayor’s budget problems.

Heroin everywhere.

Corruption in the police department.

Buildings in the South Bronx torched by the block.

Those were the stories he went after, not failed bond sales and blabbering politicos. Problem was the damn financial story had pushed everything else off the MT’s front page. Taylor hadn’t had a decent story out there in three weeks. He needed the quick hit of a page one byline, needed it particularly bad this morning. The cops had called him at home last night. Not about a story this time. They’d arrested his father, reeling drunk in his underwear outside his apartment building. Taylor had been up until three a.m. dealing with that mess. A good story — a good story that actually got decent play — and a few beers after to celebrate. Now that would pick him up. For a day or two at least.

Make the calls. Someone’s got to have something. Now that Ford’s had his say, there must be room on page one.

He’d almost slipped past the city desk when Worth called out his name. Taylor tried to pretend he hadn’t heard and kept going, but Worth raised his high-pitched voice and just about yelled. Taylor turned and went back to the pristine maple-topped desk of City Editor Bradford J. Worth, Jr.

“I’ve got an assignment for you.”

That was always bad news. “Haven’t made my calls yet.”

“Doesn’t matter. Need you down at City Hall.”

Taylor brightened. Crime at City Hall. A murder? That would be big.

“What’s the story?” He sounded enthusiastic. He shouldn’t have.

“You’re to go to the pressroom and wait for announcements. Glockman called in sick.”

“C’mon, Worth. Not babysitting. You’ve got three other City Hall reporters.” Who’ve owned the front page for weeks.

“They’re all very busy pursuing the most important story in this city’s history. Your job is to sit at our desk in the pressroom and wait for the mayor to issue a statement on Ford’s speech. Or the deputy mayor. Or a sanitation worker. Or a cleaning lady. Anybody says anything, you phone it in. Rumor is they’re working on using city pension funds.”

Worth’s phone rang, and he picked up. “Yeah, I’m sending Taylor down. No, he’ll do for now.” He set the receiver lightly on its hook. “You’ve been down in the dumps since your friend Laura left us. Was it her going or the fact she got a job at the New York Times? Because you’ll never get there, not with the way you dodge the biggest stories.”

“Hey, you and I are both still here.”

Worth frowned. Ambition rose off the man like an odor as strong as the cologne he wore. He’d made city editor at thirty without ever working as a reporter. Everyone knew he wanted more, and to him, more meant the New York Times. He’d almost been as upset as Taylor when Laura Wheeler announced she had the gig, and Worth wasn’t the one in love with Laura. He had been sure he was leaving next.

“Both here, but I’m the one doing his job. Now get to City Hall.”

“You have to be able to find someone else.” Exasperation through grit teeth. “Crime is big for this paper.”

“I decide what’s big.” He picked up the phone, dialed an inside extension, and showed Taylor his back.

Sitting at City Hall waiting for a press release was the perfect way to ruin Taylor’s day, something the city editor liked doing so much it had become a bad habit.

Taylor arrived at his own desk to find the other police reporters gone, probably making their rounds.

The desk that had been Laura’s reminded him of her — of her dark brown eyes, her black hair, her beautiful face. She’d left an aching emptiness inside him. They’d lasted a month after she’d moved to the New York Times, and then she’d broken it off. She said she realized the only thing they had in common was the MT. She hadn’t been mean about it. And she wasn’t wrong. The paper had been their life during the day and their conversation at night. He wondered if it also had to do with his age, 34, and where he was — or wasn’t — in life. He pushed his hand through his short brown hair. He’d even found himself considering his thin, angular face, something he’d never done before. Was that it? Laura was beautiful. Taylor couldn’t think of a word for what he was.

He recently heard she’d started dating a guy on the foreign staff, Derek something. He wondered how old Derek was. Late twenties and optimistic, he guessed, unbowed by life. From a good family too, probably. It was always going to end. So why did it hurt like this?

Truth was Taylor had been living with emptiness for years before he met her. Over that time, he’d gotten used to it, let the job fill his life. Only, having her and losing her made him understand how much he disliked this lonely hole inside.

Really should leave right away.

The black phone in front of him was too much temptation. Worth couldn’t see Taylor from the city desk. He picked up the receiver, pushed the clear plastic button for an outside line, and dialed the number for Sidney Greene at 1 Police Plaza. Greene was perhaps the most discontented, dyspeptic minor civil servant Taylor had ever encountered. He leaked stories not to expose injustice or right a wrong, but to screw his bosses. He simply loved watching them deal with the chaos he created by tipping off Taylor.

“Anything up?”

“Oh, a real shit show. Officer down.”

Taylor flipped open a notebook. Even in the midst of this dark age of drugs, muggings, and homicides, a police officer murdered was still a big story. A page one story. “Where and when?”

“Avenue B and East Eighth, just in from Tompkins Square Park.”

“What happened?”

“That’s all I can do for you. They’re doing the headless chicken dance down here. You’ll be ahead of the others if you get to the scene quick. Not by much, though.”

Taylor left the newsroom for the Lower Eastside. He’d check for press releases at City Hall after visiting the scene of the cop’s murder. Worthless would have his head if he missed even one minor announcement. Screw it. Taylor couldn’t ignore a big story. A real story.

He hustled from the subway across the blocks to the crime scene. The day offered near perfect New York fall weather, with the air crisp and clear, tingling with energy. He unwrapped a stick of Teaberry gum and stuck it in his mouth. The temperature had dropped from yesterday’s high of 70 and would only make it into the mid-fifties today. Jacket weather—Taylor’s favorite. Not so hot he broke into a sweat on a good walk, and cool but not cold—he wasn’t fighting the brutal winds of winter that blasted down the avenues. Easy weather put New Yorkers at ease. He could sense it as he walked. More smiles. Sidewalk trees even showed off muted reds and gold. Taylor knew it was nothing like the color upstate but it would do.

Taylor’s press pass got him inside the cluster of patrol cars guarding the ambulance. A couple of fire engines had also rolled to the scene, which was a dilapidated brownstone with half its windows boarded, a missing door, and a huge hole in the roof. The place was a true Lower Eastside wreck in a neighborhood where hard luck meant you were doing pretty well for yourself.

Taylor climbed the cracked front steps. A “Condemned Building” sign was nailed to the open door. The first floor had few interior walls, only piles of rubble from when the roof had come down, bringing chunks of the next three floors with it. The smell of must mingled with the stink of garbage. Two uniformed and four plainclothes police stood around a uniformed body sprawled across a pile of plaster chunks and wood slats in the middle of what was once probably a living room. Off to the right in the front corner was a second body, guarded by no one.

Seeing an opportunity, Taylor moved closer to the body in the corner. The man, young and apparently startled by death, had taken one shot to the chest and one in the leg. Blood soaked a black T-shirt printed with big white letters Taylor couldn’t read unless he adjusted the man’s leather jacket, which was also covered in blood. The man’s heart must have pumped his life’s blood out in minutes. Faster maybe. His right hand was on his stomach and clutched a green leather purse with a gold chain strap. Taylor knew better than to touch anything. Instead, he leaned in and was met by the iron and musk odor of blood. The top of the man’s hand was tattooed with a spiral pattern, an eye at its center. The fingers were inked with the bones of a skeleton, like an X-ray of what lay beneath the dead man’s skin.

The face was young — twenties, probably early twenties — bony and pale, with a tattoo of a spider web that started below the shirt line and crept up his neck to his chin and right ear. His hair was short and spiky, in the punk style—as was his whole look. Many of them had recently moved into this neighborhood to be near the punk rock club CBGB and the other bars that were the heart of the punk rock scene. Many were squatters.

“Don’t touch nothin’.” A short chunky cop with a gold badge in his belt walked over.

“I’d never do that, Detective.” Taylor rose from his crouch.

“I’m very sorry about the loss of an officer.”

“Yeah, thanks. And who the f*#k are you?”

“Taylor with the Messenger-Telegram.” Taylor tapped the laminated pass.

“The Empty, huh? Read it sometimes. At least you’re not the f*#king Times. I hate those pricks.”

Five years since the New York Times interviewed Serpico and broke the story of massive corruption in the NYPD, and the paper was still on every cop’s shit list. At the time, Taylor had gone crazy trying to follow the Times’ scoops. He’d admired what the Times had done and hated being behind on such a big story. He didn’t need to tell the detective that, though. It was fine with him if the man liked the Messenger-Telegram. Taylor himself liked cops, the honest kind at least. When he’d started at the paper, police reporters were almost cops themselves. Or adjuncts, at least. They helped the police, publicizing successes, ignoring failures and drinking in the same places. Not anymore. Trust had been lost, and it wasn’t going to be won back anytime soon.

"What happened?”

“This jamoke holds up a woman for her purse when she comes up from the subway at Astor Place. Officer Robert Dodd and his partner give chase. The mugger runs across St. Mark’s Place, through the park and into this hole. They exchange shots. Both are killed. At least that’s what we can figure so far.”

“Dodd’s partner?”

“Couldn’t keep up. Poor Dodd was stuck with a meter maid. When little Samantha Callahan gets here, they’re both dead. What’s the point of having broads patrolling if they can’t back you up?” Lights flashed across the detective’s jowly face. He looked out the glassless window at the car pulling up. “Assistant chief. I’ve got to make sense of this for him.”

Taylor jotted down the name on the detective’s plate, R. Trunk. He dug out a business card and handed it to the detective. “Anything more comes up, call me. We take care of cops at the MT.” Laying it on thick never hurt. “Dodd’s a hero. His story should be told right.”
“Yeah, we’ll see. Your paper may not be awful. Doesn’t mean I trust you. Now get out of here. We got work to do.”

Trunk turned as another plainclothesman walked up. “Still haven’t got the kid’s gun.”

"Well, find the f*#king thing. Assistant chief ’s going to be on us like stink on shit.”

That was odd. If Dodd took out the mugger, the man’s gun would be right here somewhere. It couldn’t have walked away on its own. Taylor put that detail in his notebook. Anything odd always went in the notebook. He walked a wide arc toward the door to get a quick view of the dead officer. Dodd was a complete mess. He had to have been shot in the face. Taylor couldn’t make out the nose, the eyes, anything in the gore and blood. That meant he had to have shot the mugger first.


Rich Zahradnik is the author of the Coleridge Taylor Mystery series from Camel Press. Last Words is the first novel in the series and was published Oct. 1, 2014. Drop Dead Punk will come out August 15. He was a journalist for 30-plus years, working as a reporter and editor in all major news media, including online, newspaper, broadcast, magazine and wire services. He held editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, Fox Business Network, AOL and The Hollywood Reporter, often writing news stories and analysis about the journalism business, broadcasting, film production, publishing and the online industry. In January 2012, he was one of 20 writers selected for the inaugural class of the Crime Fiction Academy, a first-of-its-kind program run by New York's Center for Fiction. He has been a media entrepreneur throughout his career. He was the founding executive producer of, a leading financial news website and a Webby winner; managing editor of, and a partner in the soccer-news website company Goal Networks. Zahradnik also co-founded the weekly newspaper The Peekskill Herald at the age of 25, leading it to seven state press association awards in its first three years. Zahradnik was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and received his B.A. in journalism and political science from George Washington University. He lives with his wife Sheri and son Patrick in Pelham, New York, where he writes fiction and teaches elementary school kids how to publish the online and print newspaper the Colonial Times.

Connect with Rich:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 

Saturday, July 25, 2015



Death by Didgeridoo

Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award.

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit. 

The Case of the Killer Divorce

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

Peril in the Park

There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.


Barbara, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
This book is a collection of my first three Jamie Quinn Mysteries. Each book can stand alone, but they're more fun if you read them in order. Number four is coming soon!

Where’s home for you?
I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, only thirty miles from Miami Beach, where I was born. It may seem like I don't get out much, but I've been fortunate enough to be able to travel to India, Australia, Chile, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Canada, and Costa Rica.

What’s your favorite memory?

One of my favorite memories is when I was on vacation in Washington with my family. We had gone whitewater rafting and then driven to a snowy area to play in the snow. My younger son, who was seven at the time and very difficult to please, joyfully and spontaneously declared: "This is the best day ever!" It always makes me smile to think about that. 

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

Laugh as much as you can and be kind to everyone. Love is the answer. It doesn't matter what the question was.

Who would you pick to write your biography?
Someone who could make me look adventurous and daring and brilliant. J.K. Rowling, are you listening?

Who are you?
I am a reluctant family law attorney (if you're one of my clients, I swear I'm working on your case right now); a proud mom of two fine young men; a happily-married divorce attorney; a sister; an aunt to ten wonderful nieces and nephews; a native Floridian; an iced coffee addict; an avid reader of fine literature; a word fanatic, and, finally, I am "Mrs. Grammar Person." I just can't help myself . . . I was glad when 'Carls Furniture' went out of business so that their missing apostrophe would stop bothering me.

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
She was funny and kind and generous and I absolutely loved her books! It's a shame she died tripping over the dog and choking on a cookie . . .

What’s your favorite line from a book?
I have lots of favorites, but the one that sticks with me is from my Russian Lit class in college. It's the first line of Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Not only is Tolstoy telling us that this story is about an unhappy family, he is also telling us how to write a story. If you write about a happy family, it's boring, there is no story. A story must have conflict to be interesting, and each unhappy family has its own unique story. That's why when life is going too smoothly for your characters, you have to shake things up, make some trouble for them.

What would Jamie Quinn say about you?
She would say "Quit stealing my lines, lady!" Actually, she would say, "Did you have to give me ALL of your phobias and insecurities? Isn't one of you enough for the world?"

How did you create the plot for this book?

Funny story – I was trying to learn how to play a didgeridoo (a large Aborigine wind instrument) when I accidentally dropped it and broke the glass top of a dresser. That's when I realized: You could kill someone with this thing. Later on, my husband found me swinging the didgeridoo around like some weird Ninja warrior, and he looked a bit worried, but I assured him I was just doing research. From then on, I couldn't stop thinking about how someone could get killed with a didgeridoo: Who was this person? Why would they even have a didgeridoo? How could the wrong person be blamed for the murder? Why would there be more than one person who wanted the victim dead? Like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces slowly came together to become my first cozy mystery: "Death by Didgeridoo."

The Case of the Killer Divorce was inspired by Ambien and my quest for a good night's sleep. Did you know Ambien looks just like aspirin? Did you know that Ambien and alcohol can kill you? I didn't know that either, but I called the Walgreen's pharmacist to ask. I assume they called the police as soon as I hung up . . .

Peril in the Park was inspired by two true events. Back when I worked for Broward County, a maintenance worker was mad at his boss and mowed the words "BITE ME" into the lawn. That started me thinking about someone vandalizing the parks in a snarky way to get back at their boss. One thing led to another and Jamie's boyfriend Kip became that boss. Also true, a developer wanted to build a high-rise next to a historical site and years of litigation ensued. That seemed worth killing for . . .

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? 

Of course! All of them are. For example, Grace, my protagonist Jamie Quinn's best friend, is a combination of several of my friends, especially the smart-aleck ones (you know who you are!). I always use the characteristics of people I know, or people I've seen, as a jumping off point. Once, I saw a guy in a parking lot getting out of his car and I said, "There he is! My private investigator, Duke Broussard." I just wish I'd taken his picture . . .

Are you like any of your characters?
My sister swears that I am Jamie Quinn, but it's not true. Just because we're both reluctant family law attorneys with sleep issues and phobias who are insecure and sarcastic doesn't make us the same person. She has a cat and I have dogs and she's younger and has an alcoholic private investigator for a friend.

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
That's a tough one, but I can tell you how he/she wouldn't kill me. None of my victims are ever killed by guns. I did have an FBI agent pull a gun once, but that's all she did. The first victim in my first mystery died by being whacked in the head with a didgeridoo, the second was run over by a car. I can't tell you how the others died because I would give away some secrets and I want you to read the books.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love humor writers like Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Erma Bombeck, and Mary Roach. I love science fiction and fantasy and, of course, mysteries. And I could read the Harry Potter series over and over. Growing up, I was a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut – his humor, his conversational tone, his brilliance, and his willingness to do the unexpected. Ann Patchett's book, Bel Canto is one of my favorite books of all time, as is The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffennegger, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye, by Rachel Joyce. In all three books, the characters are wonderful and memorable, but it's the authors' ability to capture poignant moments that touches me.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?
I can't stand too much description. I don't care what color the bedspread is or that their childhood dog was named Scooter. I'm a minimalist; I like a light touch and a broad stroke of the pen.

Do you have a routine for writing?
Sadly, no. If I did, I would finish my books much faster. But I still have to earn a living as a lawyer. Boring, but true.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
As a humor writer, my goal is always to make my readers smile. I've received many kind words from my wonderful readers, but the best compliment I ever received was from a stranger who left a comment on my book of humorous essays, A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities. He wrote: "I have enjoyed this book a lot. It cheered me up during some difficult days. Pleasant reading, especially on difficult days."

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
This interview – LOL! Seriously though, the hardest thing for me was my first short story, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place." It's super short, but it took me a year to write because I kept getting stuck and quitting. Writing that taught me so much about plot, dialogue and characterization, and I couldn't have been happier when I finally finished it. It taught me that I could work my way through anything if I just didn't quit. The first rule of writing is to write. That's also the second rule and the third.


Award-winning author, Barbara Venkataraman, is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection. 

She is the author of Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person; The Fight for Magicallus, a children's fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place;" and two books of humorous essays: I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course and A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities, which are part of the Quirky Essays for Quirky People series. Both books of humorous essays won the "Indie Book of the Day" award.

Her latest works are Death by Didgeridoo, first in the Jamie Quinn series, The Case of the Killer Divorce
, the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and just out, Peril in the Park, the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, Engaged in Danger – the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

Connect with Barbara:
Blog  |  Goodreads

Thursday, July 23, 2015



Liv Montgomery knew that asking Celebration Bay’s newspaper owner-slash-ne’er-do-well Chaz Bristow to teach her how to fish meant angling for more than a lesson in sinkers and chum. But it’s not long before Liv reels in a huge catch—already quite dead. It’s the body of an unknown man, and it was no accidental drowning. This floater was murdered, and  Chaz and Liv become live bait for a ruthless killer.


Shelley, tell us about your series. Is this book a standalone, or do readers need to read the series in order?
Liv Montgomery was a high powered Manhattan event planner who takes a job as event planner for a small destination town in upstate New York, Celebration Bay. She and her intrepid Westie, Whiskey, are usually up to their eyeballs in planning holidays and catching killers. It’s a series, but they can be read in any order.

Where’s home for you?
I live at the New Jersey shore.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
There will  always be something interesting around the next bend.

What makes you bored?
People who are bored. I run as fast as I can in the opposite direction.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
No, I work solely as a writer. Before I began writing for a living, I was a professional dancer. I worked with great people, went to a lot of wonderful places, but even then I was writing when I got the chance.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

One of my favorite quotes and sort of my philosophy of life is: “When you go through life make this your goal, watch the donut not the hole.” -Burl Ives

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?

In my dreams . . . The Cornwall coast.

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
That I did no harm, maybe even helped a little.

How did you create the plot for this book?
At the end of Independence Slay, Liv dares Chaz, her nemesis and sometimes flirt, to teach her how to fish, never expecting him to take her up on it. But he does. Now she’s stuck on a fishing boat with him. So what if? I threw in a big lake trout named Big Billy, and the rest is fish tale.

What book are you currently reading and in what format?

I read in a lot of genres and in all formats. I’m reading The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective, (a 1895 facsimile of a dime novel) on my phone and mini, Susannah Kearsley’s A Desperate Fortune in paper, and re-reading Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander in hardcover.

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I have an office in my apartment. It’s two walls of desk, all white. I sit so I can see the soft ball field across the way. I write in the morning, stop for lunch and a short read, or a walk on the beach for a break. Then it’s back to work. Usually when I’m writing one book, I have edits on another book at the same time, so it keeps me busy.

What would your dream office look like?
It would be my office but looking out over a deserted beach to the ocean.

You're published with Berkley and William Morrow. Are you happy with your decision to publish with them?

When I started writing there weren’t all the many publishing options we have today. I went with a traditional publisher because that was the best option. I’m still with several publishers and love working with them. I like being a part of a team without having to worry about the business end of it. I wouldn’t enjoy the small business aspect of self publishing, so I’m very happy to be where I am now.

What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on the second Gilded Age mystery titled, A Golden Cage, scheduled to be published next summer, and a women’s fiction, Leila, that will be available June 2016.


Shelley Freydont is the author of the Celebration Bay mysteries, including Cold Turkey, Independence Slay, Silent Knife, Foul Play at the Fair, and the forthcoming Trick or Deceit, and historical novel A Gilded Grave, the first in a new Newport Gilded Age Mystery series. She writes women’s fiction under the name Shelley Noble. Her latest is Whisper Beach.

Connect with Shelley:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Pinterest

Tuesday, July 21, 2015



When June Warner arrives in India to visit her sister Thalia, a trip to take her mind off her jilted engagement, she is greeted by the bright hot chaos of Mumbai but not her sister. She goes to the YMCA where Thalia is staying, only to find that she is not there.

Convinced that Thalia’s no-show is a sign that she is in danger, June begins a desperate search for her younger sister.

Police Commissioner Oscar D'Costa, scarred by the tragedies of his past, swears he will never again ignore his gut instinct when it comes to a missing girl. And with more and more dead foreign women being found in his precinct, he becomes convinced a conspiracy is at play.

Through the two worlds of American naiveté and Indian chaos, they must find the girl who went missing.


Ace, tell us about your latest book.
It’s a sister’s worst nightmare.  June flies to India to be with her sister Thalia, who is there on a Fulbright, only to find her missing. I have traveled widely and have two sisters I adore, part of the reason I wrote this novel. I also thought it would be fun to unravel a story in India.

How did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”
I decided to become a writer when I was 11 years old but took the loooong road! Instead of taking a class or two, I read widely and kept a journal for all the new words I was learning. That became a habit, and suddenly I was in graduate school and I hadn’t written anything. So I asked myself the following question: If I were to die in a year, would I rather have a book published or write a dissertation? The answer was a book, so I started writing. But, alas, as many writers have learned, it is a difficult path to traverse. I wrote a version of this mystery years and years ago, then life interfered, and I finally went back to it and voila! It’s done and anyone can download it if they so choose.

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
When I read a section days after I wrote it and like it! It always gives me a high.

How long is your to-be-read list?
It’s never ending because new books are always being added.

Can you share some of your marketing strategies with us?
I’m very new to the enormity of the e-world but, as always, am happy to share what little I know. I used a publicist, and I started reaching out to bloggers. It’s hard work, you often never hear back, but when you do, and someone gives the novel a good review, it is a great, great feeling.

How do you feel about Facebook?
It’s a great way to connect with old, lost friends. I haven’t yet figured out how to use it for publicizing the novel.

For what would you like to be remembered?
For loving my children. For being a good person. For always trying to do the right thing. For being kind to animals in particular, but everyone in general.

What scares you the most?
Losing my mind and being immobile.

YouTube is . . .
Something I have yet to figure out . . . but I understand from others that everything is on it. Who knows? I might find myself on it one day.

What five things would you never want to live without?
All the people I love, cats, books, lemons, and good health.

Who would you want to narrate a film about your life?
My niece. She has the softest voice I have ever heard and always reminds me of King Lear’s description of Cordelia: Her voice was ever soft, gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.

3D movies are . . .
Difficult to watch for me. They hurt my eyes, so I close them, which defeats the purpose.

If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
It would be almost empty. I find that most swear words don’t say what I really mean. I recall years ago a fellow student, who was angry with our professor, saying, “F*#k him.” I looked at her and said, “Isn’t that the last thing you want to do with him?”

Excellent! Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
I’m that oddity, an introvert who likes to talk to the people I like. Then I hardly ever shut up.

What's your relationship with your TV remote?
We are not friends because I don’t watch TV.

Do you spend more on clothes or food?
Food. It’s one of my favorite four letter F words. Right up there with Free.

What's your favorite treat for movie night?
Anything with chocolate; ice cream, cookies, brownies, all yum.

What's the biggest lie you ever told?
When I was very young I convinced a classmate that I had escaped from a circus and told her I could ride horses, tame tigers, and tightrope walk. She believed me . . . Looking back I realize my lie was a form of writing. The trick is to do it well enough to have others believe you.

That's a really good lie! Besides joining the circus :), what is the most daring thing you've done?
The most daring is hard to come up with, but I remember learning how to ski in Zermatt, Switzerland. It was the first time I had seen snow, the first time I was in such high mountains, the first time I had put on skis and down I went . . . more on my bottom than standing up. I was black and blue for days.

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Eating rare horse meat. It was stupid because I did not want to do it and I allowed the others at the table to push me into taking a bite. To this day I regret it.

What is your most embarrassing moment?
I was wearing very high heels and was at the top of a curving staircase. You guessed it: I slipped and bumped down a few steps. What you might not guess is that the room below was filled with people. Did I ever slink out of there!!!

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
All the opportunities I didn’t take because I thought they would come around again, from the pair of pants I didn’t buy in Turkey to the free Wimbledon ticket. The list is long. Very long.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
TS Eliot: "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: Humility is endless."

What would your main character say about you?
Commissioner Oscar D’Costa would say I quote poetry too often, even for him! And he quotes Eliot in the novel.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath. The library is a gorgeous room with a great aspect.

You can be any character for one day. Who would you be?
God. I would be able to remove hunger, pain, sadness, illness, poverty . . .

Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone in the world?
The Dalia Lama. He seems incredibly wise and kind. I feel I would learn a lot from him. 

What's your relationship with your cell phone?
I hardly use it.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
About eight, unless, for some reason I can’t get to sleep and then I lay in bed tossing and turning and trying to convince myself that resting is almost as good as sleeping.

What is your favorite movie?
I have quite a few because I relax by watching movies.

Do you have a favorite book?
Too many to name since my favorite book depends on my mood. Do I feel classical? Then it’s Antony and Cleopatra. Do I feel like traveling? Then it’s West With The Night. Do I feel like learning about another culture? Then it’s Little Bee . . .

Do you sweat the small stuff?
Sometimes, and when I do, it drives me crazy because I know it’s the small stuff and yet I can’t shake the sweat.

If you had to choose a cliche about life, what would it be?
Take one step at a time.

What are you working on now?
The next Commissioner Oscar D’Costa mystery, tentatively titled The Children Who Went Missing.

Cake or frosting? Cake, definitely. Hate frosting.
Laptop or desktop? Laptop. Can’t live without it these days, sad to say.
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? Neither. Not my type.
Emailing or texting? Email. I hardly ever use my cell phone.
Indoors or outdoors? Now that depends on the weather.
Tea: sweet or unsweet? Green (I’m difficult.)
Plane, train, or automobile? Feet. I prefer walking to any other mode of transportation.


Ace Varkey is a bi-racial, multi-cultural, language-loving author. She adores travel and adventure and has lived in India and Japan and currently resides in the United States.

Ace always wanted to be a writer and was inspired by Helen MacInnes, who wrote spy thrillers set in various European countries. It sounded like such a marvelous life; travel during the summer to a new country, then spend the year writing about an adventure set in that country. I decided to use my knowledge of India to create stories filled with the colors and sounds of that magical country. But I also wanted my writing to have meaning, and so I decided to write a mystery series featuring Commissioner Oscar D’Costa, with each novel highlighting a pressing social issue. I want my readers to enjoy the read, but I also want them to learn something new.

Connect with Ace:

Blog  |  Facebook  |  
Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Monday, July 20, 2015



Most people in the town of Rivershore, Michigan view Mary Harrington as a quiet widow whose only oddity is she spends a lot of time at the gym. Her son thinks it’s time for her to move into a retirement home. Two gang members think she’ll be an easy target. No one in Rivershore knows what Mary did in her younger years —really did— but the two gang members discover they’ve underestimated their victim, and Mary fears reverting to old habits may have jeopardized her future.


Maris, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I started writing in 1980. I like happy or satisfying endings, and even though, up to that time, I hadn’t been reading romances, I soon discovered that was the genre my stories fit. I also, realized, over time, that solving mysteries provided a satisfying ending, and since I enjoy reading mysteries and suspense novels, my romances began to veer toward romantic suspense and finally I decided to go to straight mystery with just a touch of romance.

What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favorite thing?
I love it when a story begins to come together. That’s usually around the 4th or 5th edit. My least favorite thing is the blank page; i.e., having to come up with the right words. I keep telling myself to remember Anne Lamott’s saying -- Sh#$ty First Draft -- but sometimes it’s difficult to get those words out of my head and onto paper. (I also hate marketing, but I don’t consider that to be writing.)

What books have you read more than once or want to read again?
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird; The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; all of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and Dick Frances’s books. (Okay, I’ll admit it, I love horses.)

What do you do to market your book?
This year I have been actively marketing A Killer Past and another mystery I have out, Eat Crow and Die. I’ve been a guest blogger (thank you for allowing me to visit your site); I’ve asked for (and have received) reviews; I purchased an ad in Romantic Times and put an ad in our local boating newsletter; I put out my first newsletter; I put on a book launch party; I’ve been speaking at libraries, made Tray Cards I’ve given out, and was interviewed for our local newspaper. I think I’ve done more, but I can’t remember what right now.

When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be?
Other than my main characters, when I start writing, I have no idea who’s going to be in a story. I usually don’t even know who the villain will be until I’m halfway (or more) into the story. I create characters who have a motive, and somewhere along in the writing, I realize, “Oh my gosh, you did it, didn’t you?”

Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Oh, that’s easy. I love Mary Harrington. I wouldn’t want her background, but I’d love to be fluent in many languages, be sophisticated and physically fit. I’d love to have her wit and poise. How fun to have a past that no one knows anything about; to have people think they know me but really don’t.

What would your main character say about you?
Mary would probably scold me for not going to the gym regularly; she’d tell me I wouldn’t have back pain if I’d strengthen my core muscles. She’d probably tell me I should switch to drinking tea, but after a couple glasses of wine (white for her, red for me), we’d probably discover we had quite a bit in common.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Mary wasn’t inspired by real people but by Lara Croft and Nikita. My thoughts were: I wonder what they would be like in their 70s.

I like writing characters who do and say things I never would, as well as characters who do and say things I wish I could. Do you have characters who fit into one of those categories? Who, and in what category do they fall?
Oh, I’m always wishing I’d thought fast enough to come back with a smart retort or brave enough to order someone off our property. I think that’s one reason I have a law enforcement figure in my mysteries. They have the authority to say and do what I never would. All of my main characters think faster than I do.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

It depends on when the criticism is applied. If I’m working on the book, trying to make it as good as I can, I love constructive criticism. I need others to point out things I’ve missed, over used, or wouldn’t fit the character. When my editor tells me something isn’t working, I’m usually ready to tell him to go jump (that’s when it’s good that I don’t always have a fast come back), but after a couple days of thinking about what he said, I usually agree; and finally when a reviewer (or any reader) slams a story I’ve written, it hurts. (Where’s that bottle of wine?)

Where’s home for you? 
I now live ¼ mile from Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan. I’m sitting here, looking out my window at sailboats and cruisers on the Black River. Spring, summer, and fall it’s paradise. In the winter, I’m in Florida, three miles from the Gulf of Mexico where I hunt for sharks’ teeth. It’s also paradise.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Walk my dog (I now have a miniature poodle. He’s quite a change from the Rhodesian Ridgeback I owned for 12 ½ years), I do yoga, go on the sailboat or dinghy with my husband, swim, and I’m active in several local organization.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a stand-alone suspense that takes place in Skagway, Alaska. I like this story. I hope it’s published.


Maris Soule has been writing for over 30 years. Prior to switching to mysteries, Soule had 25 category romances published and is a two-time RITA finalist. In addition to A Killer Past, Soule has three published mysteries in her P.J. Benson Mystery series (The Crows, As the Crow Flies, and Eat Crow and Die).

Born and raised in California, Soule was working on a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when a redhead with blue eyes talked her into switching from a Masters to a Mrs. He also talked her into moving to Michigan, where over the years they’ve raised two children and a slew of animals. The two now spend their summers near Lake Michigan and their winters in Florida.

Connect with Maris:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter 

Saturday, July 18, 2015



Bubble. . . Bubble . . .
Whispering Falls’ resident potion maker, June Heal, is the first witch in the magical village to make a big money deal with the Head To Toe Works, a national chain specializing in spa and natural products.

Cures and Trouble . . .
June is going to need to use her own stress relief potion she made especially for Head To Toe Works after she discovers the dead body of Burt Rossen, the co-owner of Head To Toe Works, on the belt of the assembly line of her stress free lotion product.

Magic Stirs . . .
A new baby is born in Whispering Falls and giving Oscar Park, June’s fianc√© and Whispering Falls’ sheriff, the itch to get a wedding date set and gives June an ultimatum.

And Trouble Doubles . . .
June is forced to use her witchy ways to figure out who stole her secret potion after it turns up missing. Rumors are flying around like broomsticks that June is a witch and used a spell to murder Mr. Rossen. Someone wants her out of Head To Toe Works, but who? Will the killer get to June before she can walk down the aisle?


Who are you?
I think most people would describe me as loyal and with a big heart. I’m an animal lover of all creatures down to insects. I believe anyone has the capability to do anything they want with hard work behind it.

Do you have a routine for writing?
I do! I get up at 5:30 every morning and do all my business stuff and drink a LOT of coffee. I also knock out some social media too. By 7 a.m. I’m writing. I write until around 10 a.m. because my dogs are bugging me to go for a walk. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we walk for 30 minutes. When I get home, I start writing again on and off until my kiddos or husband get home from work. I make sure I have my family time. I usually write about 5k words a day. NOT all great words, but words!

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I have a lovely office with a great window and amazing desk . . . but I don’t really like to write in there. Most mornings you can find me out by my pool or on our deck. I also like to write in the kitchen . . . go figure -- that’s where the food is!

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

"The freshest voice in Cozy Mystery genre" from Books and Company book store.

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing?
That my mysteries are fluffy. It was meant to be an insult, but I turned it around. I told them that my mysteries are fluffy and my main goal is to make the reader smile, laugh and add a little mystery to their crazy busy day. And that I’ve never claimed they were anything other than that.

If you had $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?

A lottery ticket so I could double it!

What’s the dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
A flowbee! It’s a little vacuum hair tool that cuts hair perfectly . . . I have four boys and thought I could use it on them. One time, I rushed him to the salon to fix the mess I had made.

Besides not using a flowbee on your sons' hair, what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
LOYALTY and who deserves it.

How did you meet your husband?

I was a director of a private school and his son went there. We met over a student/student altercation. Definitely NOT love at first site! I was about to kick his son (my now step-son) out of the private school. This makes me giggle!

What are your most cherished mementoes?
Everything I receive from readers. It ranges from emails to cat collars for Kitty Kappes. I adore and keep each one of them!

What brings you sheer delight?
I get so happy and giddy when I hear from a reader telling me how my books made them smile or laugh. I also love when they tell me that I help them escape from their everyday life.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
"Thought become things . . . choose the good ones!" OR "The dream is free, the hustle is going to cost you."

What would you like people to say about you after you die?

The End . . . literally. Or she really made me laugh out loud.

Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?
YES! I’ve self-published twenty novels. I will never stop self-publishing. I was self-publishing when it was so uncool. I was even shunned by a writer’s group because of it. I never looked back. I won several awards, USA Today’s bestsellers list with two novels, and varies bestsellers lists. I will always self-publish even though I also traditionally publish.

HarperCollins is the publisher for your traditional novels. How did you find them and how long did your query process take?
I’m a hybrid author. I have an agent who is a bulldog. HarperCollins bought the book immediately, and the deal was done in a couple of weeks.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a super secret project that has been requested. I’m pretty excited . . . but much MUCH different than what I’m doing now. Shhh . . .


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Thursday, July 16, 2015



In 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.

To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme involving the troupe’s money-making ventures. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?

A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.


Book #4 in the Jazz Age mystery series

While the band geared up for some Cole Porter tunes, I studied the crowd, mostly moneyed older couples, no doubt vacationers who’d escaped the cold north climates. Galveston never failed to attract a brisk tourist trade, even during off-season. Personally, I preferred the empty beaches and cool winter weather. To me, the gray skies and somber seascape seemed more mysterious, more romantic.

I snuggled next to Burton, enjoying the lively set. The musicians let loose, improvising on a few blues songs. The Negro saxophonist and trumpeter broke into Dixieland jazz, each playing solo for a few minutes. Burton gave me a satisfied smile, tapping his fingers on his knee in time to the music.  Interesting that a Yankee like Burton enjoyed Southern blues and jazz so much.

An hour later, the band leader announced a break and the musicians carefully placed their instruments in their cases. After they left, the band leader stood before the microphone and announced:  “For your entertainment, ladies and gentleman, a magician will perform an array of tricks. Please stay seated and enjoy the show.”

I whispered to Burton, “I wonder if he’s the same magician from the vaudeville show?”

“Possible, since he’s only on stage for ten minutes or so at most. He could be moonlighting on the side.” He shrugged. “But these jokers all look alike to me.”

During the break, I headed to the ladies room, and made small talk with a few matrons washing their hands and powdering their noses. My simple silk frock paled next to their beaded gowns, glitzy jewelry and sterling mesh bags.

“I didn’t think I’d enjoy jazz so much!” I heard one elderly lady in a glittering gown and long string of pearls say to a friend wearing a diamond and sapphire choker. “The music makes me want to do the fox trot! And the Charleston!”

“Absolutely. I feel so young and alive!” her friend exclaimed. “Positively giddy!”

I smiled at their excited expressions and returned to watch the magic act. The magician did a few card tricks with audience volunteers, then performed some sleight-of-hand numbers: the usual coins behind the ears, scarves pulled from his hat. Nothing as death-defying or dramatic as slicing a woman in half or making her disappear—difficult to do in a hotel lobby. This time, his pretty young assistant appeared merely decorous, flitting about the lobby, delicate hands highlighting his tricks—not as dramatic as his usual act with secret escape boxes and elaborate props.

“Must be the same old-hat vaudeville magician,” I whispered to Burton, who also seemed unimpressed...

The musicians returned, and I leaned back against the plush loveseat, trying to enjoy the jazz, but I was too rattled to concentrate. While the set wound down, a few couples began to head upstairs. By now, it was nine o’clock, probably past their bedtime.

After the performance, the audience gave the band a round of applause and some patrons added a few dollars to their tip jar. The musicians were packing up their instruments when the woman wearing the fancy choker burst into the lobby, her hands fluttering around her neck.

“Help!  I’ve been robbed!” she screeched. “Where’s the hotel manager? Somebody stole my jewels—right out of my room!”

A Jazz Age Mystery series

Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets now just $0.99 for July 16-17!


Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in several national magazines including: Family Circle, Modern Bride, First, Glamour, Biography, Cosmopolitan, Country Accents, Playgirl, etc. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman's World.

A flapper at heart, she's the owner of MODERNEMILLIE, specializing in Deco to retro vintage items.

Formerly she's worked as a magazine editor and in advertising/marketing and public relations. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism. Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets is the sequel to Flappers, Flasks And Foul Play, her first novel. Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is the third book in the series.

"When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past, and I became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s."